You Can’t Tell a Story Through a List

It’s easy to justify writing a listicle, and we won’t deny they have undeniable benefits.


  1. They’re easy to share
  2. Easy to incorporate visuals
  3. They’re brief
  4. A piece of cake to write

…and there are some negative aspects too:


  1. They come off as “spammy”
  2. Unoriginal
  3. Usually “dumbed down” content that’s easy for readers to quickly skim.

It’s almost too easy to write a listicle, and it’s even easier to drive traffic to. But how effective is using listicles as a storytelling tool? How engaging is it? Think about it, when you scroll through your Facebook feed and pass by “Top 10 Nutella Recipes”, you know exactly what to expect if you decide to open that page. It’s definitely a great time killer, and who doesn’t want to skim a quick list of delicious Nutella treats? It’s too easy to click on. Listicles are certainly good for some kinds of content, but they don’t translate well to long-form storytelling on blogs. Why? Listicles are brief, unemotional, impersonal, and usually doesn’t inspire creative writing.


What is real storytelling?

Story: [stawr-ee, stohr-ee] ; a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale.

There’s a reason that media budgets allocated to content marketing are increasing. People will do just about anything to avoid your advertisement. The second they feel like they are being sold to, their attention is lost.

People don’t care about what advertisers have to say about their product . Every advertiser thinks their product is great. But they care greatly about what their friends and peers think about their product.

As a result, bloggers across the web have the opportunity to become brand advocates. Yes, as a participant in a content marketing campaign, you are getting paid to speak about a brand. Don’t let that distract you. Don’t feel the need to make a hard sell of the product in your sponsored posts, your readers will notice it and lose trust. The goal of content marketing is to relate to consumers on a personal level, not to make a sales pitch. There are lots of ways to write a compelling, emotional, relatable story about the brand you’re representing.Here is an example of a Cooperatize story that blew us away:

“The Puerto Rican sun peaks through your window at Casa Sol Bed & Breakfast, and although the homey feeling inside is matched in warmth only by the bright, yellow façade of the building, outside is where true romance awaits you. It’s time to wake up.

After a plate of sweet quesitos and piping-hot café con leche for two, you’ve hit the brick streets of Old San Juan. Walking along Paseo de la Princesa, a local artists notices how inseparable you are from one another, and asks if he can sketch you—the historic San Juan Gate looms welcomingly in the distance, but it’s early yet, so why not?”

This was a story Robert Schrader from Leave Your Daily Hell did in a sponsored post for Puerto Rico Tourism. It’s wonderfully organic and romantic, filled with beautiful, descriptive language. It’s a story, and doesn’t read like a boring fact sheet of cool things to do during your stay in San Juan.

This is the kind of story engages readers on a deeper level than a list. You might begin to imagine yourself with someone you love strolling the cobblestone streets of Old Puerto Rico.

So, don’t be overwhelmed by all of the information about a product or destination you’ve agreed to write about. Don’t feel the need to include every last bullet point. Instead, write an engaging, descriptive, relatable story. A great story will resonate with your readers more than a listicle ever will.